Infrastructure Systems, Services, and Climate Change: Integrated Impacts and Response Strategies for the Boston Metropolitan Area

EPA Grant Number: R827450
Title: Infrastructure Systems, Services, and Climate Change: Integrated Impacts and Response Strategies for the Boston Metropolitan Area
Investigators: Kirshen, Paul , Ruth, Matthias
Current Investigators: Kirshen, Paul , Anderson, William , Chapra, Steve , Chudyk, Wayne , Edgers, Lewis , Gute, David , Lakshmanan, T. R. , Ruth, Matthias , Sanayei, Masoud , Vogel, Richard
Institution: Tufts University , Boston University
Current Institution: Tufts University , Boston University , University of Maryland
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: September 14, 1999 through September 13, 2003 (Extended to March 12, 2004)
Project Amount: $899,985
RFA: Integrated Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Global Climate Change , Water , Ecosystems , Climate Change


The services provided by infrastructure systems include flood control, water supply, drainage, waste water management, solid and hazardous waste management, energy, transportation, providing constructed facilities for residential, commercial, and industrial activities, communication, and recreation. The infrastructure industry is one of the largest contributors to US Gross Domestic Product. The real value of infrastructure, however, is that the socioeconomic and environmental services it provides are essential; without them, the US economy could not function and many human and environmental systems would collapse. This is particularly the case in metropolitan areas.

Even though infrastructure systems and services (ISS) are designed according to socioeconomic and environmental conditions that are very sensitive to climate (for examples; energy and water demands, wind and water loads) and have interrelated impacts upon each other, there have been no major integrated assessments of the impacts of climate change on metropolitan ISS in the US. Several researchers have shown that the possible economic damages to ISS because of climate change are the same as or larger than damages to agriculture. Infrastructure systems last considerably longer than decades (some a century or more) and provide the footprint and direction for future ISS and related future socioeconomic activities and environmental quality. Hence it is important that decision-makers understand the short- and long-term consequences of climate change on ISS. This includes both local and regional decision-makers because they make most infrastructure-related decisions and state and national decision-makers because they provide policy guidance.

The objectives of the proposed research include:

  • Documentation and analysis of the state of present infrastructure systems and the socioeconomic and environmental services provided by them in the Boston Metropolitan Area (BMA, includes the major cities of Boston and Cambridge and 99 other municipalities within approximately 20 miles of Boston - land use varies from urban to farms and open space) using various indicators to indicate their contribution to the quality of life in the region.
  • Determination of the integrated direct and indirect impacts of climate change, socioeconomic, and technology scenarios on the future evolution of ISS and the regional quality of life over time.
  • Identification and importance of policies and short- and long-term research needs for the provision of infrastructure services that will meet stakeholder needs over time given the uncertainties of climate and other changes.
  • Collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), our local partner, to ensure that stakeholders are involved, their concerns are addressed, and the project results are effectively communicated to them and the public at large and to begin to engage stakeholders in the process of preparing for potential climate change.


The approach includes: Work with stakeholders and experts to understand the multiple driving forces behind ISS in the BMA and the vertical and horizontal interrelationships of ISS demands and impacts. Build a dynamic analytical modeling tool that incorporates this understanding and uses indicators to: (1) organize data; (2) model socioeconomic and environmental dynamics and interrelated impacts of ISS; and (3) aid in communication of project results. Work with stakeholders to execute the model with climate change, socioeconomic, and technology scenarios to achieve the research objectives. Communicate with the help of the MAPC to stakeholders and the general public throughout the project.

Expected Results:

The research will improve the risk management of the impacts on infrastructure from future uncertain climate, socioeconomic, environmental, and technology changes by showing possible impacts and driving forces behind those impacts and their sensitivities, working with stakeholders to develop short- and long-term resilient policies and programs to mitigate and adapt to impacts, and empowering stakeholders and the general public with the results.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 47 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

global warming, Massachusetts, adaptation, suburbs, humid, developed world., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Hydrology, climate change, State, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Social Science, infrastructure systems, integrated assessments, water resources, policy making, flood control, energy generation, Boston Metropolitan Area, socioeconomic indicators, Massachusetts (MA), climate models, human activity, Boston, global warming, climate variability, ambient air pollution

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003
  • Final Report